The Uncanny Valley

Published 3 Comments on The Uncanny Valley

The Uncanny Valley
used in reference to the phenomenon whereby a computer-generated figure or humanoid robot bearing a near-identical resemblance to a human being arouses a sense of unease or revulsion in the person viewing it.

In other words, the uncanny valley is when something looks close to the real thing but our brain freaks out and keeps saying, “Something is wrong.” If you have ever been to a Wax Museum, you get that feeling alot.

which is real?
It’s really easy to tell which is real and which is fake, but look closely. They are very similar. This is a really close match, like a wax statue
Uncanny Valley
The uncanny valley is what happens when your brain tries to make it real, but keeps finding flaws.

I have been a fan of this new technology called a Bond letter. It’s kind of awesome. It is a machine that writes in your own handwriting. Today, I got my hands on a real bond letter written by a robot. Here is a picture of it:


It’s hard to tell from the picture, but something just seemed wrong about it. I didn’t feel right. It felt like a machine wrote it. What was happening?

For several minutes, I studied the letter to see what my brain was “feeling”. The letters were different from each other, no pattern was visible. The line-heights were varied. However, I found a couple of flaws.

  1. The lines were perfectly horizontal. When I write on unlined paper, I never ever get the line so even. (See image below)
  2. The quality of the writing didn’t vary through the letter. Usually my writing changes from the beginning when my hand is steady to the end when it is a little tired. It’s not perfect, but it’s not unperfect enough.


In theory, this could have been written by a person, but they would need a combination of slightly messy handwriting and perfect line management. That just didn’t seem right to me.

I love that Bond is trying to get this right. It’s amazing to me that something like handwriting could trigger that weird part of our brains.

In Marketing, people send dynamic content emails all of the time. I believe that the content of the email fails the uncanny valley test all of the time. Does this sales person know me? or is it just “close” and feels wrong.

Beware the uncanny valley.


Whatya think?